Ghent


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Ghent is one of Belgium’s oldest cities, with beautiful medieval and classical architecture, winding canals lined with cafes and bars, wonderful street art, and some of the best museums in the country. The city also is a university town and has the vibrant feel a youthful population brings, that we’re told feels less touristy than the more well-known Brugge.

Blog reader Christopher Hylarides recommended we visit Ghent, and we’re glad he did. We made a day trip there from Antwerp and enjoyed our time in Ghent perhaps even more than our trip to Brussels.

Below are trip highlights from March 7th, 2020 in Ghent. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

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Chinatown
Looking down Van Wesenbekestraat, the core of Antwerp’s Chinatown. We passed the area on our way to the train station.
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Antwerp Centraal
At Antwerp Centraal for a day trip to Ghent. The interior is just as dramatic.
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The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb
Our first stop in Ghent was Sint-Baafskathedraal to view The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, also known as the Ghent Alterpiece. Painted in 1432 with 20 panels, it is one of the earliest known oil paintings in the world and one of the most influential.

The painting is incredibly popular—the viewing area was crowded even at 9:45am in early March. Photography isn’t allowed inside the church, so this picture is from their web site.

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Sugar & Spice
Enjoying a snack at Sugar & Spice in Ghent.
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Stadhuis
Stadhuis, Ghent’s city hall, was completed in 1600.
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Belfort
The view north from 299ft (91m) Belfort in Ghent is worth the 350-stair climb to the top. The UNESCO-listed belfry was completed in the 14th-century. In the foreground is Saint Nicholas’ Church, with Stadhuis partially visible at right (click image for a larger view).
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Metselaarhuis
Fantastic dancing figures on the stepped roof of 16th-century Metselaarhuis (Mason’s Guild Hall) in Ghent.
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Post Office
Ghent’s former post office, with a 170ft (52m) clock tower, was built in the neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance style for the 1913 World’s Fair. The building now is an upscale hotel and shopping mall.
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Sint Veerleplein
17th- and 18th-century buildings overlooking the historic square Sint Veerleplein in Ghent. In the corner is the old Fish Market gate, topped with a statue of Neptune.
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Gravensteen
Ghent’s medieval castle Gravensteen dates from the 12th century.
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Di Massimo
It was just warm enough to have lunch outside at Di Massimo with view to Ghent’s historic canals and buildings.
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Sint Michielshelling
Ghent is one of Belgium’s oldest cities, with beautiful architecture. This is the view east from Sint Michielshelling (St. Michael’s Bridge), looking past centuries-old buildings to Saint Nicholas’ Church visible in the distance.
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Monuments Men
Twentieth Century Fox Films commissioned street artist Bart Smeets to created this mural based on the 2014 movie The Monuments Men. The film is tells the true story of Allied soldiers and others who return to their owners art stolen by the Nazis. Featured in the mural, and the story, is the The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painting that we saw earlier today.
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St. Nicholas Church
The spectacular interior of 13th-century St. Nicholas Church, one of Ghent’s oldest buildings.
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Graffiti Street
Mural at west entrance to Werregarenstraat, Ghent’s officially-sanctioned street art alley.
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Gravensteen Tour
On a tour of 12th-century castle Gravensteen. We enjoyed the tour, but information about the history of the castle was rather sparse.
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View from Castle
Looking southwest across Ghent from the rooftop of castle Gravensteen. Di Massimo, where we had lunch canal-side, is roughly at center, under the black umbrellas on the left side of the canal.
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Dulle Griet
Dulle Griet, named after a figure in Flemish folklore, was the fifth-largest siege gun in the Middle Ages by caliber with a barrel diameter of 26 inches (660mm). It is one of three such guns created in the 15th-century in the Belgian city of Mons. We saw one of the other three, the 20-inch (510mm) Mons Meg, when we toured Edinburgh castle in the summer of 2017.
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Vrijdagmarkt
Early 20th-century art nouveau buildings overlooking the square Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market). The square is one of the oldest in Ghent and the historic center of the city.
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Baudelostraat
Fabulous architecture looking along Baudelostraat from the square Vrijdagmarkt in Ghent.
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Gruut Brewery
Enjoying an IPA at Gruut Brewery during the traditional brewpub portion of our city walk.
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Museum of Industry
Massive 79-foot (24m) “self-actor”, an early 20th-century fully-automated spinning machine at the Ghent Museum of Industry. The whole works slides forward to the bar where Jennifer is standing, and back again. To keep the machine running at full speed, children had to run underneath while it moved to retrieve cotton fluff.

Ghent was the first city in the European continent where the Industrial Revolution took hold, and became a major textile producer. The museum does an excellent job of covering this history, including the industrial espionage that triggered the city’s textile prowess. Until the late 1800s, Britain closely-guarded its industrial technology, but a Ghent entrepreneur managed to smuggle a spinning machine out of Britain in 1798, sparking Ghent’s industrial revolution.

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Heidelberg Cylinder
The Ghent Museum of Industry also has an excellent and extensive exhibit covering three centuries of printing technology. This is an Original Heidelberg Cylinder letter press machine built in the mid-1900s.
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Palenque
A delicious meal in a wonderful atmosphere at tiny Mexican restaurant Palenque in Gent.
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Korenmarkt
Night view of the square Korenmarkt (Wheat Market), with Gent’s old Post Office at left. The square’s name derives from the 11th century when wheat was brought in by barge and traded here.
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Al Fresco
We loved how even at night on a cold March evening, people where sitting outside to dine throughout Ghent.
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Stadshal
Stadshal (City Hall) in Ghent, viewed at night with the tower Belfort that we climbed earlier today. The modern new Stadshal was quite controversial when erected in the midst of historic buildings with even UNESCO complaining that it altered the setting of the world heritage-listed Belfort. We found the structure rather attractive, with an historic-looking appearance.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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4 comments on “Ghent
  1. John S. says:

    The architecture in Ghent is stunning. The only problem for tourists is that most of the fun details on Ghent buildings are on the roof, so walking around with your eyes craned upward must be necessary to take it all in.

  2. Christopher Hylarides says:

    Glad you guys enjoyed the visit! :-)

    Ghent was such a surprise for me as well. The only reason I went there was because of it’s beer reputation. Although it’s an over-generalization, in my mind Belgium is seen as a pass-over as most of its history was destroyed in both world wars.

    I’m from Toronto (which as i recall you lived in for a time) and I was at a conference in Antwerp with a colleague who originally grew up in Paris. When we went to Ghent, the words out of his mouth were literally “If I’d known Belgium could be this nice, I’d have visited more than the train station in Brussels!”. :-)

    • I went through more or the less the same myself. I’ve been through Belgium frequently for work but really never had a chance to look around. Just did airport to work and back. I was both surprised and impressed as well.

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